NICE, France -- An uncharacteristic fall may have cost Canada's Meagan Duhamel and Eric Radford a spot near the top at the world figure skating championships.
Radford landed on his backside on the pair's side-by-side triple Lutzes in an otherwise clean performance, leaving the Canadians in fifth place after Wednesday's short program.
"When we see that score, if we landed our jump we could have been first after the short program at worlds," Duhamel said. "But maybe that would mean the long (program) wouldn't have gone so well, so this is going to fuel us a lot.
"We wanted to be top-five and that's where we planned to end this competition."
Canadians Jessica Dube and Sebastien Wolfe are 12th.
Canada's Olympic ice dance champions Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir will begin their quest to reclaim their world title with the short dance later Wednesday.
Aliona Savchenko and Robin Szolkowy of Germany looked poised to claim their fourth world pairs title in five years, winning the short program with their skate to music from the movie "Angels and Demons." Savchenko, dressed in white, and Szolkowy in black scored 69.82 points.
Two-time world champions Pang Qing and Tong Jian of China are second after scoring 67.10. Narumi Takahashi and Mervin Tran -- a Canadian who competes for Japan -- are third with 65.37.
Duhamel, from Lively, Ont., and Radford, from Balmertown, Ont., scored 63.69 for their tango to the classical guitar piece "Concierto de Aranjuez."
Radford's fall came on their opening element, but the Canadians, seventh at last year's world championships, recovered nicely to record their best score of the season. The two, who were the only skaters with triple Lutzes in their short program, joked that they would spend their off-day Thursday practising that jump.
"I don't want to miss it again. That's the first one I missed all week," Radford said.
"If he ever misses something, anything, it's always a complete shock to me beside him... for a second, I was like, 'Woah, that's weird.' I never see him miss things."
Dube, from St-Cyrille-de-Wendover, Que., and Wolfe, from Terrebonne, Que., who are making their world debut as a team, scored 55.83 with a shaky performance. Dube two-footed her landing on their throw triple Lutz, and their triple twist lift was messy.
"I guess the program in general we didn't have as much intensity, we didn't let it all out, which I wasn't really happy about myself," said Dube, a world bronze medallist with former partner Bryce Davison.
Davison was forced to retire early last season with a career-ending knee injury.
Tran, a Regina native, is a three-time Japanese pairs champion with Takahashi. They've skated together since 2007 and train in Quebec.
Tran, the son of Vietnamese and Cambodian refugees, has no familial ties to Japan, but skating for another country is not uncommon in the sport. In pairs and ice dance, only one skater needs to be a citizen of the country the team is representing. Kaitlyn Weaver, for example, who's half of a Canadian ice dance duo with Andrew Poje, is from the U.S.
The one exception is the Olympics, where both skaters must be citizens of the country they represent, meaning Tran won't be able compete at the 2014 Sochi Games for Japan unless he becomes a Japanese citizen.
The two were favourites with the crowd at the Palais des Expositions, drawing huge cheers for their skate to John Lennon's "Imagine."
"I felt so good, the atmosphere here is wonderful, the crowd is excellent," Tran said. "I am really happy."
Savchenko and Szolkowy, meanwhile, who have three world titles plus a silver and a bronze, return to the top after missing the European championships.
"We are just so happy to be back on the ice after my injury, it's been quite some time," said Savchenko, who skipped the European event after aggravating a thigh injury. "The program was OK, it wasn't perfect, but it was good for our first competition since the Grand Prix Final (December in Quebec City)."
Russia's top teams, favoured to finish in the medals, struggled mightily. Tatiana Volosozhar and Maxim Trankov, silver medallists last year, finished eighth after Trankov fell during their death spiral. The Russian skater complained afterward about the ice being too soft. Yuko Kavaguti and Alexander Smirnov, two-time world bronze medallists, finished way down in 11th after an error-filled program that included a fall by both skaters on a lift.